Small Wonders Who are we? How did we get here? Jim Schaap tells stories of the past... the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be warned, these can get grim.
Small Wonders

Small Wonders

From KWIT

Who are we? How did we get here? Jim Schaap tells stories of the past... the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be warned, these can get grim.

Most Recent Episodes

The Algona Nativity

The first one was twelve feet wide, still quite a production because Jesus, Mary, and the babe were mud-sculptured, then baked, then painstakingly painted. Back in Germany, Eduard Kaib had been an architect. That's not to say his hand-made Nativity–all of twelve feet wide–required architectural expertise. It was Christmas, 1944, and Kaib was a long, long way from home. Things just got to him; so he decided to create this most famous barnyard scene, a fully manned–and animal-ed–nativity. Eduard

The Secret Treasure of Coming Home

One of the cement plates standing in the park holds an image of the house she lived in here in Earlville, a little white house now long gone. What's here is a little commemorative park someone keeps up. Doesn't require much, I suppose. An old-fashioned merry-go-round stands just beyond the picnic tables, the kind of machine that scared me long ago, when some big kid would push and push until we'd sail around so fast I started to believe if I didn't fly off, my stomach would. Almost nothing of a

Filled with Thanksgiving

It's 1944. Otto Steinke is too old to be drafted, his son just a few months too young. Besides, both are needed because the Allied cause requires mountains of food, food the Steinkes can produce on their Iowa farm. Not everyone can be a soldier, even some who really, really want to be. Come harvest, Otto faces a crucial shortage of help. Hired men are not to be found--some are off to the South Pacific, some to Europe. Harvest holds enough anxiety as it is, but how he'll get his crop in without

Oahe Dam, the Turtle Effigy, and Honoring Thy Enemy

On August 17, 1962, President John F. Kennedy stood behind a podium just north of Pierre, South Dakota. The President of the United States was here for the dedication of Oahe Dam, an earthen monster that created the fourth largest man-made reservoir in the world. Seven mighty Oahe turbines create enough electricity to power whole regions of the country. Oahe Dam stands 245 feet above the river bottom and required 92 million cubic yards of fill dirt, plus well over a million cubic yards of

Black Robes On the Priarie: Dyeing For Tradition

To the Lakota people, they were the "black robes," those insanely-overdressed white men who, in flat, black hats, moved in as if out of nowhere to bring the basics of the white man's religion. The Benedictines among them were led by Father Martin Marty, who would become the Vicar Apostolic of Dakota Territory and eventually Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Paul. The Benedictines wore black robes long before they came to America; in fact, they identified themselves thereby and wore

Bank Heist, Sioux Center

You can know a ton about this story just by knowing the guy who robbed the bank, was driving a Graham-Page, an showroom vehicle in October, 1929, sure to draw a crowd when it was parked right there on Main in Sioux Center. If you're going to rob a bank in 1929, in a burg like Orange City or Sioux Center, it's not a good idea to leave a shiny Graham-Page a block down. There lies the tale. What was he thinking? He wasn't. Perp walks in, pulls a gun, empties a cash drawer, walks out, and gets back

A Family Plot

There's no fort there anymore. Unlike Laramie or Robinson or Scott or Wingate, where you can still almost hear the history, Ft. Randall has only a busted-up chapel and a long, thin graveyard. If a state highway didn't run right by, no one would ever stop and only a few would remember. Fort Randall's claim to fame is having held Sitting Bull and his people when they returned, entirely diminished, from Canada some few years after Little Big Horn. Once upon a time, the legendary Sitting Bull was

The Battle of Pecatonica

There's some debate about exactly why Chief Black Hawk left Iowa in 1832 and crossed the mighty Mississippi. He claimed that he and his band had been robbed of their homeland, and all he ever wanted was to return to the land where his ancestors were buried. That claim may have been deceptive. Some historians believe he wanted to build a Native Confederacy. More and more white faces were showing up on land that once belonged to the tribes who trapped and hunted the lush woodlands along the Rock,

Jesse James' Train Robbery and Creation of a Myth

For the record, the Rock Island Express the boys hit that night was eight cars long--four coaches, two sleepers, and two baggage and express cars. It left Council Bluffs at five, on a run to Chicago. Oddly enough, the last sleeper was full of Chinese students on their way to colleges out east. The date was July 21, 1873. The thing is, no one imagined that a bunch of galoots could stop a train, stop it in its tracks, then shoot up a storm, get on board, and go from seat to seat demanding cash and

Labors of the Prairie

Hattie says that just before her mother got married, she'd left the farm to start working in a grocery in Springfield, SD, where some young men "seemed suddenly to have a greater hunger for candy and cigars." One of those young men would become Hattie's father, who, she says, in all candor, "had need of a girl like this." A century ago, when a man got to a certain age, and he came to know he'd better get somebody to help with chores--a man needed to get a wife like he needed to get a haircut. I

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